GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE NO. 382
The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
- Stop Press: ABC Still in Denial About Its Own Historic Child Sexual Abuse Case – Featuring Louise Milligan & Nick Leys
- The Cliché in the Room: An Elephant’s Perspective in which Hugh White gets Confused about Mandy Rice-Davies
- An ABC Update: Aunty’s Concession on One Plus One; Paul Bongiorno’s Eco-Catastrophe Sermon from the Mount; Why the ABC needs a Fact-Checker for Its Own Supas & Will The Drum follow The Link Down the Nudist Path to Oblivion?
- Can You Bear It? Mike Seccombe, Eric Jensen, Steve Biddulph & Fairfax Media
- Media Fools of the Week: Step Forward Beverley O’Connor & Mrs and Mrs Red Bandanna
- New Feature: Pseuds Corner – Starring Leigh Sales & Salman Rushdie with a Little Help from Ian McEwan
- Media Beat-Ups: Mark Kenny on John Hewson + Fairfax Media Journos on Michael Danby & Tony Abbott
- The Fallibility of Memory: The Late Lionel Murphy’s Memory Failures
- Correspondence: In which Julian Punch Is Invited to Help Out but Declines the Offer
LOUISE MILLIGAN & LEIGH SALES & JO PUCCINI CONTINUE ABC DENIAL OF ITS VERY OWN HISTORIC CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE CASE
Interesting to see Louise Milligan heading up 7.30 last night with another report of a case of historic child abuse in the Catholic Church – following an introduction by Leigh Sales. The case involved Russell Clark, who was sexually and physically abused by Salesian priests and brothers at Salesian College in Adelaide in the late 1960s. He suffered mental and physical illnesses, became a drug addict and contracted Hepatitis C (and has had three liver transplants).
It seems that Mr Clark has received close to $200,000 in compensation from the Catholic Church authorities, mainly the Salesians, and wants more. According to 7.30, this can only be achieved if the relevant Catholic Church authority releases Russell Clark from the deed of agreement which he previously signed not to take legal action.
It is understood that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will recommend payments of up to $150,000 to child sexual abuse victims. The Catholic Church has agreed to participate in this scheme, unlike some other religions, along with some secular and government institutions.
Needless to say, neither 7.30 executive producer Jo Puccini nor presenter Leigh Sales nor star reporter Louise Milligan made any reference last night to Simon Major. Simon who? That’s a good question for anyone who gets their news from the ABC and Fairfax Media. The answer is that Simon Major is a child sexual abuse victim of former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens. That’s who.
Citizen reporter William Thompson asked Louise Milligan about the Jon Stephens case outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 26 July 2017. See Issue 371. The ABC star reporter indicated that she had never heard of Jon Stephens. Fancy that. How convenient – and so on.
As MWD readers will be aware, Jon Stephens pleaded guilty on 15 June 2017 to sexually abusing 14-year-old casual ABC employee Simon Major while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981. According to the Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate, Mr Major has suffered from mental health issues since the abuse and is currently destitute and living in a van. It seems that he lost his casual employment at the ABC after his step-mother complained of Stephens’ abuse.
ABC management refuses to explain why the ABC has not properly reported Jon Stephens’ conviction on child sexual abuse or why reporters like Louise Milligan are ignorant of the case – which has been reported in News Corp publications. Moreover, ABC management will not state whether it has adopted a duty of care to its former casual employee and offered counselling and/or financial compensation. All this has been documented in MWD.
Now here’s a suggestion. Give Louise Milligan a 10-minute lead story on 7.30 next Thursday covering the ABC’s apparent denial and inaction concerning the child sexual abuse of its own former casual employee Simon Major.
Postscript: On 19 July 2017 Gerard Henderson wrote to Nick Leys, Head of Communications ABC, asking the following questions (See MWD Issue 370):
▪ When did ABC management first hear of the complaint against Jon Stephens about a sexual assault on an ABC assignment in 1981?
▪ Following Stephens’ conviction in Gosford Local Court, has ABC management approached his victim [name withheld] with a view to offering counselling and/or paying compensation? If not, why not?
▪ Does ABC management propose to make a statement about this case of historic child sexual abuse within the ABC? If not, why not?
On 26 July 2017 Nick Leys replied as follows: “Thanks Gerard, no comment.”
So the ABC has no comment on its own historical child sexual abuse case but is willing to give Louise Milligan 10 minutes to discuss once again an historic child sexual abuse case involving the Catholic Church.
IN WHICH HUGH WHITE (ALMOST) QUOTES MANDY RICE-DAVIES
Jackie’s (male) co-owner is one of those non-observant blokes who just doesn’t see things. For example, Hendo has never seen an “Elephant in the Room” – despite the fact that this phenomenon is noticed frequently by journalists, academics and the like. But he is good at identifying clichés. Like this one.
On 27 September 2017 Sky News’ PM Agenda presenter David Speers put it to Hugh White that the Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne had rejected his criticism of the Turnbull government’s decision to purchase French designed submarines. And so, it came to pass that your man White threw the switch to cliché – as follows:
Hugh White: Well, he [Pyne] would say that, wouldn’t he? – as Mandy Rice-Jones (sic) so famously responded.
Er, not really. The occasion was the Profumo affair when it was revealed that the UK Secretary for War John Profumo was having sex with a couple of, well, show girls of the night (and the early morning). They were Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.
When it was put to Miss (as she then was) Rice-Davies that Lord Astor had denied any sexual encounters with her, she replied: “Well he would, wouldn’t he?” That was a terrific response in 1963 – but it’s become a tired cliché after half a century, even when misquoted by the likes of Dr White (for a doctor he is).
[Good point. But who is/was Dr White’s “Mandy Rice-Jones”? – MWD Editor]
- ABC CONCEDES THAT JULIAN PUNCH’S ONE PLUS ONE CLAIM CANNOT BE VERIFIED
As avid readers will be aware, Gerard Henderson has contested some of the claims made by the man whom the ABC likes to describe as “former Catholic priest Julian Punch” on One Plus One on 8 September 2017. In fact, Mr Punch left the priesthood in 1981- almost four decades ago. It’s a bit like describing Hendo as “a former public servant in the Industrial Relations Bureau” for that was his position in 1981. It is, after all, a long time ago.
Julian Punch’s (soft) interview with Jane Hutcheon contained numerous errors concerning the role of the late B.A. Santamaria’s anti-communist National Civic Council in Tasmania in the 1970s. There are even more errors in Julian Punch’s self-published Gay with God: The life and times of a turbulent priest which will be documented in the next issue of The Sydney Institute Review Online. Including the false claim that Brian Harradine was a Democratic Labor Party senator for Tasmania. He was, in fact, an Independent.
Following correspondence with Hendo, the ABC has decided to edit the Iview of the One Plus One: Julian Punch program. Viewers who now open the Iview interview will see the following Editor’s Note below, at the bottom of the web page. Here it is:
Editor’s Note: In this interview Julian Punch relates an incident in which two young trainee priests kill themselves after leaving a seminary in Victoria. This story cannot be verified, as Mr Punch explains in his book.
If One Plus One’s executive producer had properly read Gay with God before the Hutcheon/Punch interview, this undocumented assertion about the two seminarians would not have gone to air in the first place. Today’s “Correspondence” section carries an exchange of texts between Gerard Henderson and Julian Punch concerning One Plus One.
- BONGE’S SERMON FROM THE ECO-CATASTROPHIST MOUNT
While on the topic of former Catholic priests, Paul Bongiorno (who left the priesthood in 1974 – only seven years before Julian Punch took a similar course) was into rant mode again on Tuesday.
In his weekly spot on ABC Radio National Breakfast with presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly on Tuesday, Bonge invariably delivers a sermon on what politics should be – rather than a comment on what it currently is. Let’s go to the transcript as your man Bongiorno runs his predictable Green/Left line on climate change and all that:
Fran Kelly: Ok. Paul, the Clean Energy Target. When the Chief Scientist recommended it those months ago, everyone said “oh here’s the mechanism to finally get some bipartisan support for national action on emissions”. Now the government’s hinting so strongly it’s not needed. Can we now say the Clean Energy Target is dead?
Paul Bongiorno: Well it certainly looks like it’s dead and don’t forget, as Chris Bowen just pointed out to you Fran – [Alan] Finkel wrote, the Chief Scientist was asked to do this report as a way of settling the issue. As a way forward. Now as late as yesterday, the Prime Minister was still promising to achieve our emissions targets, the ones that, actually, the Abbott government signed up to in Paris. But he’s now, it would seem, softening us all up to think we can do that without a Clean Energy Target. It does remind us of what Malcolm Turnbull said in 2009 that “I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.”
Hold on a minute. Note Fran Kelly’s assertion that “everyone” supports Dr Alan Finkel’s CET recommendation. This is simply false. In fact, the Turnbull government deliberately did not immediately endorse this particular recommendation. Bonge should know this – but he was too wound up to stop. So, the discussion continued. Then, quelle surprise!, Ms Kelly invited Mr Bongiorno to criticise Tony Abbott’s speech on climate change in London this week. He embraced the opportunity:
Paul Bongiorno: Well Malcolm Turnbull’s very fond of saying that Labor’s energy policy is driven more by idiocy than ideology, I would think he should start applying this to Tony Abbott. I mean this just flies in the face of contemporary science. Look what part of the science isn’t settled? Well, I’ll tell you what part is settled and that is the catastrophic global warming coming and we have to do something about it.
So, there you have it. According to The Thought of Bonge, (i) Tony Abbott is an idiot, (ii) every part of the science of climate change is settled (including that which is established on the basis of modelling) and (iii) catastrophic global warming is coming to a place near you. Soonest. By the way, the former Catholic priest Paul Bongiorno has an STB and a STL from the Pontifical Urban College in Rome where he studied Noah’s response to catastrophic climate change.
- AUNTY’S SUPA ERROR
The taxpayer funded public broadcaster does not need a fact-check for Bonge’s rants since he is long on opinion and short on factual material. But it could use a fact-checker for One Plus One (re which see above) as well as for its supas. Instead, the ABC spends money checking the facts of other media outlets while leaving its own howlers uncorrected.
This is what Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks like – she’s one of the world’s most famous people:
And this is how ABC News depicted Aung San Suu Kyi last Saturday:
Where is the ABC fact-check supremo Russell (“I don’t like conservatives much”) Skelton when you need him?
- A LAST BEAT FOR THE DRUM?
Believe it or not, the last issue discussed on ABC TV’s The Drum on Monday was (yawn) nudity. For some reason or other, The Drum’s executive producer thought that nudity among those of middle age was a matter worth discussing – and illustrating – during Gin & Tonic time and just before dinner. Hendo went off for a new glass and missed most of the discussion but, really, didn’t miss anything.
As MWD recalls, the ABC TV’s The Link ended its program on 15 September with a discussion on baby boomer nudists somewhere in Australia (Yawn). The baby boomer men had their private parts blurred out but not the baby boomer sheilas. How sexist is that, Michelle Guthrie? In any event, soon after it was announced that The Link had been spiked. Could The Drum be heading in a similar direction? Certainly, the (nudity) omens are not good.
- SNEERING SECCOMBE’S SKY SNEER
How appropriate is this? Last weekend’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper ran a TRULY BORING Page One lead by Mike (“The Sneerer”) Seccombe under a large photo of Andrew Bolt on the set of Sky News’ The Bolt Report . Headed “Murdoch’s failure to launch Fox here”, it commenced with the highly unoriginal first sentence: “Poor Andrew Bolt”. The host of Sky News’ The Bolt Report is anything but “poor”. In any event this is how your man Seccombe’s “scoop” commenced – apparently he is unaware that Bill O’Reilly no longer works for Fox News in the United States:
Poor Andrew Bolt. Not long ago the right-wing blogger and News Corp columnist was in line to become the Bill O’Reilly of Australian television, leading the way into a Foxified future, assisted by changes to Australia’s media laws. But not anymore.
The scenario would have gone like this: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp buys control of Sky News, stacks it with a squad of right-wing opinion-mongers, led by Bolt. Then Australia’s media laws, which have locked Murdoch out of free-to-air television for more than 25 years, are changed by the Turnbull government. Then Lachlan Murdoch and friends buy the struggling Ten Network. Then Sky takes over news production for the network. Then Ten’s news division becomes increasingly like Sky’s, which is to say, more about opinion than fact, like Fox News is in America.
Sure, The Saturday Paper prints on Thursday evenings and is close to 48 hours old when it comes out. Even so, editor Erik Jensen should have been able to come up with a lead story that was better than this. Early on, Sneerer Mike declared that Andrew Bolt operates out of an eighth floor office in a Melbourne building “holed up in a make-shift studio broadcasting to an audience of almost no one”. Towards the end of his (boring) article Sneerer Mike declares that Andrew Bolt broadcasts “from under the stairs”. Funny eh? Not really – just delusional.
The Sky News’ headquarters is in the Sydney suburb of Macquarie Park. It also has modern studios in Melbourne and Canberra and a very modest one in the Sydney CBD. Sky Management runs at a low cost but its studios in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra run efficiently. Seccombe’s line was that Sky News is a poor, low-rating channel. But if Sky News is so little watched – as Mike Seccombe asserts – why devote The Saturday Paper’s lead story to it?
According to Mike Seccombe, Sky News’ presenters lack political diversity. He named Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Peter Reith, Ross Cameron, Mark Latham, Paul Murray and Chris Kenny as “right-wing opinion mongers”. Mr Latham was included in Mr Seccombe’s little list despite the fact, as Seccombe notes, Latham no longer works as a Sky News presenter. Strange. And Seccombe seems unaware that, due to ill health, Peter Reith no longer appears on Sky News. Also, Seccombe falsely asserted that Graham Richardson “lost his show”. In fact, he presents Richo once a week on Wednesdays. That’s lazy journalism – suggesting that Mike Seccombe does not watch Sky News much.
Mike Seccombe failed to mention the following Sky News presenters – David Speers, Peter Beattie, Kristina Keneally, Peter Van Onselen, Nicholas Reece and Patricia Karvelas – since they do not fit in with his “right-wing opinion mongers” thesis about Sky News. That’s intellectually dishonest journalism.
The fact is that there is much more diversity on Sky News than there is on the ABC (which remains a Conservative Free Zone) or in The Saturday Paper (which is a leftist house-journal for the inner-city Green Left). For example, last weekend’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper contained (boring) articles by such leftists as Mike Seccombe, MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian Guy Rundle, Paul (“I used to share accommodation with Gerald Ridsdale but I don’t talk about it much”) Bongiorno, Richard Ackland and Christos Tsiolkas. Not a conservative among this lot of what could be depicted as a cohort of “left-wing opinion mongers”.
For his story on Sky News, Seccombe’s main source for quotes was Emeritus Professor Rodney Tiffen – another leftist. Your man Tiffen declared that Lachlan Murdoch’s failure to acquire Channel 10 meant that Australia “dodged a bullet”. But not, alas, a cliché.
Whatever its ratings, Sky News – including The Bolt Report – is important because it breaks stories and scores interviews which the rest of the media pick up. That’s why it is watched by an influential audience. The Saturday Paper, on the other hand, never breaks stories and is rarely quoted in the media. And yet Sneerer Seccombe reckons that Sky News has no impact on “the direction of the public debate”. Can You Bear It?
- ERIC JENSEN’S TRUE CONFESSION – RACISM MADE HIM THE SATURDAY PAPER’S EDITOR
While on the topic of The Saturday Paper, what a stunning performance by its editor Erik Jensen on The Drum last Friday, circa Gin & Tonic time.
Let’s go to the transcript where your man Jensen responded to a comment by The Daily Telegraph’s James Morrow that – contrary to the assertions of the Human Rights Commission – Australia is not a deeply racist society. At issue was a Human Rights Commission piss-poor taxpayer funded advertisement depicting an Anglo-Celtic man refusing to hold a lift for an attractive woman of colour, both in their mid-thirties:
James Morrow: I think the Human Rights Commission is drawing a very long bow when it’s trying to say that racism is so pervasive here. And just some statistics from their own website—these guys in the year 14/15 had 561 complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act, in the previous year 429. So, even by their own numbers racism is declining. It feels to me that—
Julia Baird: “Racism is declining.” This is a whole other subject. Eric Jensen.
James Morrow: It feels like an effort to drum up business.
Erik Jensen: Firstly, you don’t make complaints to the Human Rights Commission about casual racism. Casual racism is the fact that we have an all-white panel right now having this discussion. I mean, casual racism affects people’s lives in – the ad is not depicting someone refusing to ride in a lift with someone – it’s depicting someone not holding a lift for someone. And I’m certain that happens. Of course, that happens. And it’s not for you James to decide if it does or not.
James Morrow: Well I think that what you, you, you are looking at is the attempt to find racism in so many common everyday interactions.
Erik Jensen: Because it’s there. That’s why—and that’s why we need to talk about it.
James Morrow: But what you’re doing is you’re saying that racism is the reason absolutely every sort of thing happens. So you’re looking for offence. You’re looking for offence.
Erik Jensen: Yes. Racism is the reason you have a job, racism is the reason I have a job.
James Morrow: Racism is the reason why we have jobs?
Erik Jensen: Yes…..everyone on this panel has a job because they benefit from some kind of racism.
So there you have it. According to Erik Jensen all white people are into casual racism and every white employee got his or her job because of racism. Could this explain why, every week, The Saturday Paper runs article after article by white writers. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. In view of Erik Jensen’s true confession, perhaps Morry Schwartz’s leftist journal should be re-named “The Saturday Racist”. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
- FAIRFAX MEDIA SECRETLY CENSORS STEVE BIDDULPH’S ANTI HOWARD/ABBOTT/DUTTON/ABETZ RANT
While on the subject of white guilt, thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to Steve Biddulph’s piece in Fairfax Media on Thursday 5 October 2017. The fact is that Jackie’s (male) co-owner stopped reading the views of the (thankfully) retired psychologist Mr Biddulph some time ago. And for good reason as your man Biddulph’s rant last week – which the Canberra Times titled “The tragedy of toxic men” – demonstrated. Here’s the gist of Mr Biddulph’s argument (for want of a better word) which appeared in The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times:
Messed-up men define our times. After all, what is Donald Trump but an ego-bound baby-man, spraying the whole planet with his verbal bullets? Causing vast destruction to trust, cohesion and world stability.
Toxic masculinity has reached historical heights in a time when we all hoped progressive values would carry us through. We’ve missed something fatally important, and I think it’s the psychology of men.
Dysfunctional men loom over business. Domestic politics is full of them. As a retired psychologist, I feel a duty to be blunt. John Howard was a dismal human being, heartless and self-seeking, he lowered the bar on our nation’s humanity and gleefully joined in a tragic war. Tony Abbott is still slinking Gollum-like though the halls of power, unable to let go of his Precious. Peter Dutton, somehow emotionally empty, justifying his cruelties to vulnerable men, women and kids. Eric Abetz, jaw so clenched that he can barely speak, erupting splenetically about homosexuality’s threat to civilisation. These were little boys once, what happened to them?
Which raises the question – your man Biddulph was a little boy once, what happened to him?
Believe it or not, Steve Biddulph wrote this Fairfax Media article as his reaction to “the carnage of Las Vegas”. Moreover, he believes that the world has been messed up by white men – Donald Trump, John Howard (despite the fact that Mr Howard introduced tough anti-gun laws in Australia when he was prime minister), Tony Abbott (well, of course), Peter Dutton and Eric Abetz. All of whom are or have been current or one-time democratically elected politicians.
The (retired) psychologist did not refer to such men as Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Iran leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and ISIS terrorist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “messed-up men”. So, according to Steve Biddulph, not one of this male quartet warrants criticism for messing up the world. Can You Bear It?
[Once again, no. I note that Fairfax Media online has recently deleted the paragraph where Steve Biddulph refers to Messrs Howard, Abbott, Dutton and Abetz from its website – without owning up to the reason for its act of censorship. It is as if Biddulph never referred to Howard, Abbott, Dutton and Abetz and no Fairfax Media editor ever agreed to publish his full rant in the first place. Somewhat intellectually dishonest don’t you think? – MWD Editor.]
- AUNTY’S BEVERLEY O’CONNOR RECKONS THAT ERDOĞAN & TRUMP ARE SIMILAR DICTATORS
Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the false equivalence of ABC TV News presenter Beverley O’Connor last Tuesday. Let’s go to the transcript as Ms O’Connor compares Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with United States President Donald J. Trump.
Beverley O’Connor: President Erdoğan is accused of this increasingly dictatorial style, which he may have in common with Donald Trump.
According to a Reuters estimate, some 120,000 Turkish citizens have been arrested, detained or dismissed from employment by the Erdoğan government. But the Trump administration has not acted extra-judicially by arresting or detaining American citizens and residents. And President Trump has not fired tens of thousands of US public servants. In the US there is media freedom but such freedoms are being curtailed in Turkey. And yet the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s Beverley O’Connor claims that what the leaders of Turkey and US have in common is an “increasingly dictatorial style”.
Beverley O’Connor: Media Fool of the Week
- MEDIA TART FITZ LEAVES RED RAG AT HOME TO RE-MARRY MEDIA TART LISA
How do you know when Fairfax Media star Peter FitzSimons can be seen sans red bandanna? Answer: When the occasion is important to Fitz. The Red Bandannaed One turned up with a naked head at the annual dinner of the Australian Republican Movement in December 2016 in Sydney and July 2017 in Melbourne. The guest speakers were Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten respectively. Not really a proper occasion to dress up with a red rag on a bloke’s skull.
And Fitz also went head-topless when he renewed his marriage vows to Lisa Wilkinson at the Balmoral Bathers Pavilion last Saturday. Yawn. Mrs Fitz wore a Pallas Couture number (according to the Sunday Telegraph’s Jonathon Moran) and Mr Fitz presented in a black tuxedo unadorned by his red-rag headwear.
In view of the fact that MWD readers are not used to seeing The Red Bandannaed One without a red rag on his head, the Instagram photo of last Saturday’s Balmoral Beach love-in has been photo-shopped to depict Fitz-the-Media-Tart as the masses are used to seeing him.
In any event, if you see Fitz with a red rag on his head on, say, The Drum or Paul Murray Live – you will know that he is not in what he regards as important company. However, when something important is going on – like meeting the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader or remarrying his wife –Peter FitzSimons dresses like any other middle-aged male.
Peter FitzSimons: Media Fool of the Week
WHEN LEIGH SALES HEARD HOW SALMAN DINED WITH IAN AND DISCUSSED, YES, TRUTH
Due to popular demand, MWD will commence its very own Pseuds Corner devoted to calling out pseudo-intellectual posturing in the Australian media. As far as Jackie’s (male) co-owner is aware, Pseuds Corner was invented by Private Eye – where it still runs. And now for MWD’s inaugural Pseuds Corner starring 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales and the luvvie writer Salman Rushdie. Let’s go the transcript to check how the (fawning) interview commenced:
Leigh Sales: Salman Rushdie, thank you so much for joining us.
Salman Rushdie : I’m very happy to be with you.
Leigh Sales: The new book doesn’t directly refer to Donald Trump but of course it lands squarely in this context of the Trump era in which we are now living. How do you use fiction to comment on reality when reality currently seems so fantastic?
Salman Rushdie: Well, it is a question, I think, many of us have been asking ourselves. You know, I had dinner with Ian McEwan a few nights ago and we were agreeing that if we had written down what has really happened in the world and offered it to our publishers as a novel, the publisher would have turned it down for being too unbelievable. The truth is stranger than fiction line has never been more true. I think what happens is writers can, perhaps in a way, be the truth tellers in a moment when there is so much fakery around.
Leigh Sales: You mentioned truth in your answer. And the subject of truth is so central to this moment. Do you still have faith in an objective verifiable truth?
Salman Rushdie: Well, I think you know, there has always been an argument about the truth. Truth is different for different people.
How about that? Luvvie Salman had dinner with Luvvie Ian and they agreed that Trump was truly dreadful. And Leigh asked Salman if he still believes in “objective verifiable truth”. Meanwhile eyelids close all around the nation as viewers turn off (literally) at the prospect of having to relive a Philosophy 101 lecture from their student days about truth. ZZZZZZZZ
NEW FEATURE: LIFE IN MEDIA BEAT-UPSVILLE
STARRING MARK KENNY ON JOHN HEWSON WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM FAIRFAX MEDIA MATES ON MICHAEL DANBY & TONY ABBOTT
Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald has had a fun week getting stuck into conservatives and social democrats alike – from a Green-Left perspective.
٠ On Monday, the SMH headed a story on Labor MP Michael Danby by Adam Gartrell “Labor MP pledges to stop attacking ABC”. A total beat-up. Mr Danby merely said that he would no longer use his electoral allowance to partly pay for newspaper advertisements criticising ABC Middle East reporter Sophie McNeill. That’s all. For the record, Mr Gartrell seems unaware that Michael Danby does not constantly “attack” ABC journalists in the Middle East. He has not criticised the objective reportage of Matt Brown – only the advocacy journalism of Sophie McNeill.
٠ On Wednesday, the story by James Massola and Cole Larmer on the Turnbull government’s policy on a proposed Clean Energy Target was headed “Coalition defies the science on energy”. It’s possible that the Coalition may not implement its chief scientist Alan Finkel’s recommendation of a 42 per cent CET by 2030. But this was a policy recommendation – not a scientific principle.
٠ But the beat-up of the week goes to Mark Kenny’s page one SMH story titled “Hewson warns PM’s you’re looking weak, stand up to Abbott” on Thursday.
It’s hardly news that former (failed) Liberal Party leader John Hewson is criticising current Liberal Party leader and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. That’s what Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) does. As Mark Kenny should be aware, John Hewson criticised former Liberal Party prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott. John Hewson would only warrant a Page One lead if he ever supported a Liberal Party leader or a Liberal Party policy. Now, that would be news since these days, on some issues, your man Hewson is closer to the Greens than the Coalition or Labor.
In truth, Dr Hewson, who now consults for renewable energy industries, has been critical of the Liberal Party ever since he was ousted by a Liberal Party room ballot in May 1994 and replaced by Alexander Downer. In 1993 Dr Hewson led the Liberal Party to its fifth defeat in a row in what was called the “unlosable election”. It was soon discovered that no election is “unlosable” if a party is led by Dr Hewson.
THE FALLIBILITY OF MEMORY – OR INSIDE THE ROBERT MANNE MEMORY HOLE
As avid readers are aware, Emeritus Professor Robert Manne has twice been voted Australia’s leading public intellectual. How does MWD know this? Well, your man Manne posted this on his website – that’s how. Yet, despite his intellectual eminence, Professor Manne occasionally has clear “recollections” of events that never happened.
For example, Emeritus Professor Robert Manne maintains that in 1993 or perhaps 1995 or perhaps 1998 or perhaps 1999 (he’s not sure), Gerard Henderson sent a fax to (then) Age Opinion Page editor Paul Austin calling on him to drop Manne as a columnist. Professor Manne claims that Hendo sent a copy of the (alleged) fax to Morag Fraser – who happens to be one of Manne’s best friends. Manne also claims that Paul Austin sent a copy of the (alleged) fax to him. So, according to Manne, there are three copies of the (alleged) fax in existence – Paul Austin has a copy, so does Morag Fraser and so does Robert Manne himself. Yet, despite being offered $25,000 to present the (alleged) fax, Professor Manne has not done so. Which is not that surprising since no such fax was ever written.
As avid readers are also aware, in his chapter in From the Paddock to the Agora, Robert Manne wrote about his memories of La Trobe University in the period 1975 to 1988. He asserted that Professor Hugo Wolfsohn expected that “all members” of the Politics Department staff “would take their lunch together” at the Staff Club. This never happened as Gerard Henderson and Dr Colin Rubenstein (who were members of the Politics Department in 1975) have attested. In the same chapter, Professor Manne recalled attending a teach-in on the Vietnam War at La Trobe University “in 1968 or 1969”. No such event ever took place – he confused La Trobe University with Monash University. Again, Emeritus Professor Robert Manne has a clear “recollection” of an event that never happened. It’s called the Fallibility of Memory – and here is another example.
LIONEL MURPHY’S FALLIBLE MEMORY CONCERNING THE LATE PAUL FLANNERY
In The Australian on 22 September 2017, retired Sydney lawyer Graham Kelly wrote about his role in the defence of High Court judge and former Labor government minister Lionel Murphy (1922-1986). Murphy was convicted but subsequently acquitted of attempting to pervert the course of justice by improperly interfering in a legal case in the NSW jurisdiction. Those who gave evidence against Murphy were District Court judge Paul Flannery and NSW chief magistrate Clarrie Briese. Gerard Henderson wrote about Lionel Murphy in his column in The Weekend Australian on 23 September 2017 – see here.
In his account of the first trial (there were two) in The Australian on 22 September 2017, Graham Kelly had this to say:
As for the charge that he[Murphy] tried to pervert the course of justice in proceedings…before Judge Paul Flannery, the case was flimsy. Flannery, incidentally, had been a pupil on Murphy’s floor at the Bar; he had given him considerable help and, when Murphy left the Bar to go into politics, he gave Flannery much of his library.
It is not clear who heard that Murphy gave Flannery considerable help when he was at the Sydney bar and that when Murphy entered politics he gave Flannery “much of his library”. It seems that Murphy told this to Mr Kelly and others. But is it true? According to Rosemary Flannery (Paul’s widow) – not at all.
In a letter published in The Australian on 29 September 2017, Mrs Flannery wrote that Paul Flannery never worked (as a reader) on the same floor at Wentworth Chambers when Murphy was there and that, during his lifetime, Paul Flannery disputed the assertion that Murphy had provided “considerable help” to his legal practice. Moreover, Rosemary Flannery wrote that “Murphy never gave any of his library to my husband”.
So there you have it. Clearly Lionel Murphy had “recollections” about Paul Flannery that never happened. Ah – the Fallibility of Memory. Or yet another “recollection” down the Robert Manne Memory Hole.
This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.
There are occasions, however, when Nancy’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.
As MWD readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).
GERARD HENDERSON AND JULIAN PUNCH re UNPROVED ALLEGATIONS IN HIS ONE PLUS ONE INTERVIEW WITH JANE HUTCHEON
As avid readers are aware, Gerard Henderson challenged a number of claims made by Julian Punch in his interview with Jane Hutcheon on the ABC TV One Plus One program. In particular, Julian Punch’s unequivocal statement on One Plus One that in the late 1950s/early 1960s two same-sex attracted male seminarians at Corpus Christi College in Werribee jumped from a tall building in the Melbourne CBD. This comment is inconsistent with the statement on Page 60 of Julian Punch’s book Gay with God that the dual-suicide story is based on a rumour which he has not been able to verify.
Julian Punch phoned Gerard Henderson last Friday morning. Hendo was busy at the time but returned the call shortly after 3 pm. In the conversation, Julian Punch blamed his (unnamed) female editor for the fact that he wrote in Gay with God that the Werribee story was a rumour which he had not been able to verify – but did not explain why he wrote what he wrote. He also claimed that there were contemporary newspaper reports of the (alleged) incident but said he would not provide them.
Gerard Henderson – being a courteous kind of guy – offered to publish in Media Watch Dog a 1500 word article/letter by Julian Punch setting out his argument. The offer was declined. Now read on:
Text to Julian Punch from Gerard Henderson – 9 October 2017
Following up our conversation of Friday, I confirm that Media Watch Dog will publish an article/letter from you up to 1500 words re my comments on your One Plus One interview.
As discussed, your comment will be published unedited provided it contains no defamatory material. Also, any assertions should be supported by evidence.
Text from Julian Punch to Gerard Henderson – 10 October 2017, 9.40 am
Thank you Gerard. The advice from my legal advisor is to wait for the independent process to complete. I hope you have had an opportunity to contact Fr Eric Hodgens of the Catholic View who has provided specific evidence on the two situations that are of concern to you.
I have written an article but prefer to wait for independent conciliation in the matter. Thanks for the offer
Eric’s contact is xxxxxxxxxx
Text from Gerard Henderson to Julian Punch – 10 October 2017
You made the dual suicide allegation on One Plus One – despite the fact that you wrote in Gay with God that this was a rumour which you could not verify.
It is up to you to provide the evidence that this event happened – it is not up to me to attempt to verify your own story.
During our phone conversation on Friday, you claimed that there were contemporary newspaper reports of the (alleged) incident but said that you would not forward them to me.
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Until next time.
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